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Books That Feature Characters Living with Mental Illness

Not the taboo subject it once was, mental illness offers rich territory to explore in books for kids and teens. Stories chronicling the struggles of young people and their friends, siblings, or parents who suffer from anxiety, depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), agoraphobia, an eating disorder, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, hypochondria, and other illnesses make for engrossing, insightful reading and help build understanding and empathy. Check out these multilayered novels and memoirs that explore this complex psychological terrain. And you might also want to take a look at our list of Books with Characters Who Have Physical Disabilities.

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In the Blue Cover

In the Blue

age 5+

Touching story uses colors to explore a dad's depression.

By: Erin Hourigan (2022)
The Goldfish Boy Poster Image

The Goldfish Boy

age 8+

Intriguing mystery inspires empathy for kids with OCD.

By: Lisa Thompson (2017)
Some Kind of Happiness Poster Image

Some Kind of Happiness

age 8+

Adventurous girl uncovers family secrets in engrossing read.

By: Claire Legrand (2016)
Where the Watermelons Grow Poster Image

Where the Watermelons Grow

age 8+

Book about mental illness in family is real yet reassuring.

By: Cindy Baldwin (2018)
All the Greys on Greene Street Poster Image

All the Greys on Greene Street

age 9+

Girl copes with mom's depression in colorful '80s mystery.

By: Laura Tucker (2019)
Finding Perfect Poster Image

Finding Perfect

age 9+

Hopeful story of likeable tween's struggle with OCD.

By: Elly Swartz (2016)
Black child in profile holding a gold chain with star


age 9+

Lonely child finds spirit-world friends in sweet tale.

By: Kacen Callender (2022)
As Brave As You Poster Image

As Brave As You

age 10+

Poignant summer adventure brims with family love and hope.

By: Jason Reynolds (2016)
The Madman of Piney Woods Poster Image

The Madman of Piney Woods

age 10+

Moving 1901 adventure explores race, class, mental illness.

The Nest Poster Image

The Nest

age 10+

Poignant sick-sibling tale blurs lines of real and imagined.

By: Kenneth Oppel (2015)
Sure Signs of Crazy Poster Image

Sure Signs of Crazy

age 10+

Unforgettable story of girl moving beyond her tragic past.

By: Karen Harrington (2013)
Forget Me Not Poster Image

Forget Me Not

age 11+

Compelling story of girl dealing with Tourette syndrome.

By: Ellie Terry (2017)
Calvin Poster Image


age 12+

Compelling tale of quirky quest of teen with schizophrenia.

By: Martine Leavitt (2015)
Invisible Girl Poster Image

Invisible Girl

age 12+

Searing memoir of growing up in troubled family offers hope.

Under Rose-Tainted Skies Poster Image

Under Rose-Tainted Skies

age 12+

Mental health issues meet romance in witty, touching story.

By: Louise Gornall (2017)
Vincent and Theo: The Van Gogh Brothers Poster Image

Vincent and Theo: The Van Gogh Brothers

age 12+

Riveting story of art, mental illness, brotherly devotion.

By: Deborah Heiligman (2017)
Without Tess Poster Image

Without Tess

age 12+

Compelling tale of teen haunted by troubled sister's death.

By: Marcella Pixley (2011)
A World Without You Poster Image

A World Without You

age 12+

Reality and delusion mix in sensitive mental illness drama.

By: Beth Revis (2016)
What I Lost Poster Image

What I Lost

age 12+

Realistic, uplifting tale of teen in treatment for anorexia.

By: Alexandra Ballard (2017)
Highly Illogical Behavior Poster Image

Highly Illogical Behavior

age 13+

Sweet, funny tale of teen helping boy beat fear of outside.

By: John Corey Whaley (2016)